Pictured above: Jinky and Godfred Drilon worked in social care for years but now their future is uncertain.
Immigration is one of the defining issues of the age. Populist politics have sought to divide people into them and us. The Windrush scandal highlighted just how toxic the hostile environment has become. How it's tearing lives apart, dividing families, pushing people to the brink ... as they wait to be told if they are deemed to be legal. Many of these people are already British citizens.
How did this happen?
When will it end?
Week in, week out, politicians and pundits blame immigrants for all sorts of social ills, creating an atmosphere of animosity that, for some, is reminiscent of the 1930s. Hateful rhetoric against people who have simply moved to the UK to work, raise their families, contribute to our communities. People who have fled conflict, discrimination and violence. Yet the hate continues…
We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals. - Trump
But who are these people, the politicians label illegal immigrants and why have they come here?
Where do they live? What do they do?
How does it feel to be considered one of "them" and not "us"?
How do people navigate their lives in the hostile environment which is Britain’s toxic immigration system?
As Brexit forces us to think about what sort of immigration policy we want to pursue as a country, multi award winning photographer Seamus Murphy will travel the length and breadth of Britain, working with JCWI to shine a light on the lives of people who are deemed to be 'illegal', people who wait for a decision, and people are caught up in Britain’s hostile environment.
Through the prism of his lens he will show us -
What it means to live under the shadow of this hostility.
What it means to be stateless.
What it means to fight for your citizenship, each and every day.
This exhibition will be a collection of remarkable true stories that will leave no one unmoved. Stories which will shock you; make you despair. Stories of hope, resilience, bravery and fortitude. Above all these will be stories simply of what it means to be human – child, wife, husband, mother, father, friend, colleague - caught up in the hostile environment.
Through the lens of one of the world’s most respected photographers, these stories will be a timely reminder that immigration is part of who we are. That Britain is a nation of immigrants. That immigration is part of our past, present and future.
We want to produce a game-changing exhibition which travels up and down the country, which makes us ask questions, which challenges us, which opens our minds, which looks at immigration in new and interesting ways. Because it’s time to change the conversation on immigration.
But we can’t make this exhibition work without your help, which is why we are asking you to be part of this story. To support us however you can. Please help make this exhibition happen.